When he fished out cheques worth millions of to compensate integrated Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Nyamira and Kisii counties, President Uhuru Kenyatta knew his ratings would shoot up across the Abagusii community.
During his tour, the President issued Sh358 million and Sh460 million cheques to 7,000 and 9,100 integrated IDPs in Kisii and Nyamira counties respectively. This translates to an average Sh50,000 to each of the IDPs.
The IDPs, uprooted from their homes during the 2007/08 post-poll chaos, have waited for this payout for more than 10 years, long after their colleagues from Central and Rift Valley had been resettled. They have been holding demonstrations over the delayed compensation.
But the millions appear to have opened a Pandora’s Box and exposed the Jubilee administration to harsh criticism, not only from the Opposition, but from thousands of other IDPs from Nyanza and Western who feel sidelined in the government’s resettlement plans.
They are questioning the criteria used in paying their Kisii and Nyamira colleagues while leaving them out. The payment has run into headwinds amid claims impostors have had their names included in the list and want to share the money.
Last week, State officials had to put on hold the compensation because the list was full of fake IDPs. On the day President Uhuru was issuing the cheques in Kisii, Opposition MPs, led by Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi and his Homa Bay Town counterpart Peter Kaluma were addressing a press conference in Nairobi accusing him of using the plight of IDPs to gain political mileage.
They questioned the motive of keeping IDPs from particular communities waiting for over ten years only to be paid during campaigns. They also wanted to know the source of money being used to pay the IDPs.
The MPs claimed the President was issuing the cheques to woo the more than 700,000 votes from the community.
A day after the Nyamira and Kisii payouts, IDPs who integrated with their relatives and friends in Migori, Homa Bay, Kisumu and Siaya counties also demanded their share.
It has emerged that victims from Nyanza and Western regions say they have not been compensated since 1992, 1997 and 2007 clashes. Those flashed out of Mt Elgon, Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu through evictions are now lining up to seek their ‘dues’.
In Siaya and Kisumu, integrated IDPs, many of whom fled their homes from Naivasha, Molo and Nakuru, held press conferences to demand for payment from the government.
President Uhuru’s belated charm offensive in Kisii and Nyamira counties in which he distributed more than Sh800 million has exposed his government to criticism and is likely to affect his ratings in Western.
“The President did well by issuing the payments to our colleagues in Kisii and Nyamira, but what about us? I never heard him mention Siaya or Kisumu anywhere in his speech. When will he give us our cheques?” posed Siaya IDPs coordinator Maurice Ooro. More than 9,000 IDPs from Kisumu met at Kombewa Market on Thursday and threatened to march to State House to demand their pay. “We will not rest until we also get our dues. Why should the government discriminate against its own people?” asked Dan Mbeme, the Kisumu IDPs coordinator.
Coming just two months to the elections, the payouts are seen as a campaign strategy for Jubilee. But the President said all IDPs who had not been compensated will get their share and directed the National coordinator of IDP resettlement, Mr Allan Wachu to ensure all victims are paid.
According to the IDPs resettlement plan, each household was to receive Sh400,000 for land purchases, construction costs and perhaps start-up capital for businesses.
In September 2013, the President and his deputy President William Ruto launched a Sh3.2 billion Cash Payment Programme for IDPs and each household was to receive Sh400,000. The government shut all IDP camps in Rift Valley and Central regions in February last year after paying out Sh 17.5 billion to 28,924 who were in various camps.
The compensation of the integrated IDPs was among the several demands made to the President by the Kisii leaders ahead of the 2017 political campaigns.
Speaking during the handing over of the cheques at Ekerenyo and Masimba in Nyamira and Kisii counties respectively, the President said the government had made a deliberate move to resettle all IDPs.
“We need to forget about the past and move on as a united nation. This has been a thorny issue in our country but we must choose to remain united never again to turn against each other,” said President Uhuru. Jubilee leaders in Kisii have commended the government’s compensation plans saying nothing will stop them from rallying the community to vote for the President.
“Regardless of our political affiliations we must applaud what the President has done. We cannot casually dismiss the cash given. It is unfair to fight to receive an equal share with other IDPs in other parts of the country,” said Kisii Senator Chris Obure, who is vying for governor on Jubilee Party.
Mr Obure said those criticising the President’s move are alive to the fact that no amount of money is enough to cater for challenges facing the IDPs. “The government was only intending to show compassion and that they care about their plight,” he said.
Kitutu Masaba MP Timothy Bosire also took a swipe at the compensation issue saying for four years the government never gave them an ear.
“The Government cannot run away from the fact that the IDPs payment is being used as bait for our people. They have only bowed to pressure at the tail end of their term hoping they will get more votes from the region,” said Bosire.